I don’t know how many of our readers suffer from the affliction, but I can say with certainty that I’ve had it bad for a very long time! For the most part I blame it on my friend Gene Wensel, as I was just fine until I went to one of his traveling Whitetail Seminars back in the ‘80s. Until then a whitetail was just another species I chased with the hope of someday harvesting one that would make the Pope & Young records. While I planed to keep hunting them after that, they are “tasty” after all; I also planned to move on to other species in other parts of the world to add variety to the trophy room collection. Then I saw Gene’s traveling display and haven’t been the same since!
It took me almost twenty years of bowhunting before I managed to put my tag on a P&Y class whitetail buck, then I did it again the next day! I was hunting in Texas and they allowed two bucks and two does on a tag at the time. The year was 1990, and it was a hunt I’ll never forget. I decided to raise the bar a little and started a serious quest to harvest a 150 class buck. It took another eighteen years and over 450 days in stand to get it done, but I did finally manage to tag a 150 class whitetail with my bow. Again I raised the bar, and I’m hoping it doesn’t take eighteen years to get the 160 class I’m now looking for…..but that is another story, for another time.
After taking that 150 class buck I decided it was time to try to collect a trophy class coues deer. These miniature whitetails are referred to as the ghosts of the desert because they seem to just vanish into thin air. They are hunted in Arizona, New Mexico, and old Mexico. Of the fourteen sub-species of whitetail deer in North American coues deer are the only one given its own classification in both the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young records books. As a separate trophy species, it became my goal “to put one in the books” as part of my overall quest to complete the archery “super slam”.
The research started two years ago. Where was the best place to go to harvest one of these mini whitetails with my bow? A lot of them are being taken in Mexico of late, and I was very tempted to travel south of the border to try my luck. Of the other options I liked Arizona the best, although I can’t say for sure why. Rolling into the spring of 2010 the time had come to pick an outfitter and make serious plans for the fall season. I was honestly leaning towards a great place in old Mexico when all the political B.S. got stirred up and everyone started picking on Arizona for trying to solve their illegal immigration problems. That did it for me, I decided I wanted to show my support for Arizona and at the same time eliminate the potential risk of traveling in Mexico. I completed my research and booked a hunt for January with Steve Ward of Ward’s Outfitters. It was an easy choice as several friends had hunted with him and had nothing but great things to say about every aspect of his operation. Oh, they all also shot nice bucks!
Fast forward to last January and I found myself in southern Arizona at a first class operation hunting these mini whitetails with Steve. We had a great hunt, but I never punched my tag. I could have, but the P&Y buck that gave me the shot opportunity wasn’t what I was looking for, and the “big guy” I was drooling over was right behind him not giving me a clear shot. I sat there several more days, saw a ton of deer (assuming deer come by the ton!), but the big buck never returned. Such is the way it goes when trophy bowhunting!
It’s been almost a year since I returned home from that hunt. Since then I’ve chased a number of other species, but coues deer have always been on my mind. I think I have “mini whitetail fever”, but I can’t blame Gene for this one. It was that perfectly symmetrical, high pointed, heavy racked, miniature whitetail that I watched last year from my blind that got me this time. I can honestly say I have never seen a more beautiful deer. During the year I’ve had numerous conversations with Steve Ward about going back. The thing is I wanted to go back, but I wanted to improve the chances of success as much as I could. I don’t want to just shoot a buck with my bow, I want to shoot an awesome buck! Steve understands and decided to commit himself to helping me succeed.
What we’ve done is arrange a special hunt. Rather than Steve’s usual five day hunt (on which he was 100% successful for seven seasons until last year), we set up a double hunt for a full ten days. He committed to hunting twice as much property, with twice as many stand sites for this season. Because I’m ever the optimist, I wanted to have two tags so if/when I got a deer early I could keep hunting. By arranging the hunt for the last five days of 2011 and the first five days of 2012, I get to hunt both season, and use two tags. I wrote about this in a column earlier this year and offered the chance for three guys to join me. It didn’t take long to fill the four spots!
The reason I’m sharing all this with all our readers is that we (the four of us) are heading down to Steve’s the day after Christmas. We’ll be there for ten days and have eight days to fill. I’ll be emailing daily update reports in to the web site so everyone can join us for the adventure. I’ve been excited about the prospects all year, but a few weeks ago Steve called to tell be they had gotten an early deep snow in the higher elevations that had pushed the deer down into his area in larger numbers than usual, and much earlier in the season! This was great news! Last week he sent some trail cam photos of great bucks hitting the bait piles mid day…. seems they didn’t get much of an acorn crop this year and the deer are hitting the feed harder than usual. It feels like all the stars are lining up to make this a very special hunt. I hope you all join me and enjoy the ride….